Plastering is a skill that takes years to master and yet it often goes unappreciated – by its very nature, if it’s done well, it’s designed to go unnoticed. As British Gypsum celebrates 100 years in the industry it wants to champion the trade and has been out on the road meeting some of the unsung plastering heroes.
“It’s a trowel not a magic wand.”
My introduction into the plastering trade was a little different to most. It started back when I was working an office job and felt a little uninspired. At the time my partner was a plasterer and I used to help him out at weekends. It got to a point where I enjoyed his work more than my own, so I packed it in and took the plunge into the trade.
Learning on the job, I worked for my partner for five years before I became self employed and became The Pink Plasterer. It was a big decision to become a sole trader and for the first few months I even got a back up part-time job but I soon gave it up because the work steadily increased. I think it’s a good idea for anyone thinking of setting up on their own – start building up a client base with weekend and evening work and consider a part time role to make sure you can cover your bills at the start.
It was tough to begin with, but becoming self-employed was the best decision I ever made and, I might be biased, but plastering is the best trade there is. What I love about it is the sense of achievement you get from the instant results. Not only do you get to see a very visual transformation, plastering also often represents a significant turning point in a project for customers as their rooms turn from building sites into potential living spaces.
The job I’m working on at the moment where I’m using Thistle MultiFinish is a huge refurbishment of two flats in New Brighton, which are being knocked through to form one larger apartment. A number of the rooms are being repurposed to improve the layout so it’s back to bare brick and new partitions going up everywhere. Thistle MultiFinish is so versatile and really easy to use so has long been the go-to plaster. However, these days I’m using more and more Thistle DuraFinish for its noticeably improved durability and Thistle UniFinish for its time saving properties too.
At the moment it’s just Sam my apprentice and I in the business but I’ve had quite a number of trainees over the years. I think it’s really important to invest in the next generation of tradespeople and I regularly go in to schools and colleges to talk about the industry and my work – I’ve even had students come on work experience with me. I find that, although not as many young people are considering construction jobs these days, once they’ve actually got hands on and experienced the job they love it. I think to help solve the skills shortage we need to be giving young people more opportunities to come into contact with the trades and experience it themselves.
As a woman in the industry I have a particular passion for encouraging more girls into the trade. There is a lot more acceptance now and although plastering is definitely a physical job, it’s not beyond your average girl’s capabilities – as always good technique is key and as I’m known for saying “if it aches now it won’t in an hour.” My main advice is to be confident and to stick together, find other female tradespeople for advice and support.
In my opinion the plastering trade has a prosperous future ahead of it. House building is on the rise and so is the repair sector so it’s good news all round. The trade is also really diverse with so many new and unique materials being developed. One of the things I love about my job is that I’m always going on new courses to better my skills and product knowledge.
And I’ve found this has a knock on effect with my business as my customers really value my broad knowledge and recommendations for non-standard materials where I feel it would benefit them – I feel this is really crucial if you want to differentiate yourself as one of the best in the game. It’s also one of the reasons why I decided to become a British Gypsum Certified Plasterer, to offer even better customer assurance and show my professionalism.
So what makes a good plasterer? Well, it’s about being punctual, honest, skilful, knowledgeable and above all, it’s about people. Having a can do attitude and communicating with confidence is what will win jobs. I’ve really enjoyed being a self-employed plasterer for the past 10 years and now I’m looking to develop my career by becoming a regional A1 assessor.
Steph Leese is a great example of the high levels of professionalism in the plastering trade and a real role model to young people considering entering the sector. Look out for British Gypsum’s next interview next month.
For more information about British Gypsum or to become a member of British Gypsum’s Certified Plasterers Scheme click here.
For more information about Steph Leese please visit ‘The Pink Plasterer’ on Facebook.